Sophie Kahn - Artist Interview Series - Electric Objects

Sophie Kahn

Brooklyn, NY
Prodromes 1 from Sophie Kahn's new Art Club collection, Prodromes

“Pushing 3D laser scanners to their brink, Sophie explores the ways in which technology interprets and misunderstands the human body.”

— Alex, Electric Objects
Can we see a picture of your workspace and/or desktop?
Where are you typing this from?

Bed - I’ve been sick. I hate winter.

What do you watch/listen to while working?

Twin Peaks got me through a long phase of manual work in grad school (making molds, cleaning up seams, sanding and polishing small sculptures). Now that I’m back in NYC I largely outsource my sculpture fabrication so haven’t needed the distraction as much.

What have you been working on lately?

I’m working on a new series of small body sculptures, featuring computer-generated support structures similar to the scaffolding used by 3D printers, and using architectural materials like wood and concrete. The idea is to imply a body under construction (or deconstruction). You can see one of these on my desktop. I also run a business doing 3D scanning for artists, designers and animators -

What work of yours are you most proud of?

My favorite piece is a sculpture from a few years ago, Triple Portrait of E. My subject had the idea to turn her head three times as I was scanning her face, and the result is a 3D triple exposure. I added extra glitch, which looks like a digital fungus growing over her mouth and eyes.

What tools do you use in your work?

I use a Polhemus Cobra and a DAVID SLS scanner. The Polhemus is an older scanner but I’m in love with the errors it generates. I lease one in my business and just bought a second one on eBay for parts, possibly my best eBay find ever (although both are busted right now and I have to send them to New Zealand to get them fixed.) I also use Maya, Mudbox, Rhino, Netfabb, and more recently, Unity.

Can you tell us about your process?

I used to be a photographer so when I scan, I’ll do 50 versions and pick one, like a photo shoot; it’s a generative process but there is a ton of editing involved. I have a hard drive full of rejected scans of bodies and parts, with folders named things like “torsos” and “extra feet.” Then I delete triangles one by one and obsess over tiny details for a long time until I can’t look at it any more, and at that point I send the piece to Shapeways for printing. Then it goes out for moldmaking, casting, electroplating… I wish it were a push-button process but a new sculpture can take months. Video is a little more immediate.

Any last advice for the folks just starting out?

Everyone I know working in 3D is self-taught. Get a membership (free through a lot of libraries, including the Brooklyn library) and prepare to do a lot of googling.

Top Five Most Influential Visuals
What are the best places to see your work?

I just curated a show on dreams for (launching soon)

Favorite file formats?

.stl/obj polygon mesh all the way. I don’t do NURBS.

What sites do you visit for inspiration?
Whose work do you follow?
What are your favorite galleries, museums, exhibits, etc.?

Thanks for the interview,